Expert: STD ‘explosion’ takes place in Brockton

By Marc Larocque for The Enterprise

A dramatic increase in sexually transmitted infections has been taking place in Brockton, according to local experts and Department of Public Health.

Now the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center is trying to get the word out, while offering testing, treatment and advice about risk reduction.

“There’s been a bit of an explosion in Brockton,” said Benjamin Lightfoot, medical director at Brockton Neighborhood Health. “We’ve noticed a rather dramatic uptick in gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis cases.”

With a rate of 236 cases diagnosed per 100,000 people in the city in 2016, according to the most recently released Department of Health disease surveillance data, gonorrhea infections in Brockton are three times greater than the state average. That rate jumped from the previous year, when 141 gonorrhea infections per 100,000 people were reported in Brockton, according to the data.

Going back to 2013, Brockton syphilis rates were below the state rate, with just six cases per 100,000 people, while the state rate was at 11. The latest available annual syphilis rate for Brockton was 26 per 100,000 people in 2016, which is a 333 percent increase from 2013. In that same time frame, the statewide syphilis rate grew by about 45 percent.

The chlamydia rate continued to rise at a steady pace in Brockton from 2013 to 2016, climbing each year from 755 cases (per 100,00 people) to 923. The latest statewide rate was 404.

“We’re still scratching our heads a little bit exactly on what’s going on,” said Lightfoot, interviewed by The Enterprise on Thursday. “Is it more testing? Are more people coming and getting tested, and providers are doing testing more routinely? That may be part of it. But I think there’s definitely a lot of unsafe sex going on, and there’s multiple risk factors for that.”